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Sex. Celebrity. Politics. With Teeth

Harry & Meghan Part 2 Shows Their Sorry Case of Media Stockholm Syndrome

As much as the media hurt the couple, now that they’re no longer royals, their documentary proves that it’s also become their only lifeline.

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I woke up early this morning to listen to a friend detail their recent breakup in painstaking, razor-sharp detail. Except the friend was not a kindred spirit, but pseudo-royals Harry and Meghan, the once-elusive-but-now-oversaturated couple behind the eponymous Netflix docuseries. Their ex lover? The British media, whose relentless abuse and shameless racism would send anyone running. Somehow, the show—which has had little new to say up until this point—managed to eek out another three glacially slow episodes (which premiered at 3 a.m. Thursday morning) breaking down every last detail of this longstanding feud.

The subject of one episode is the ratcheting up of Meghan’s initial battle with the British tabloids—famously no ally of royal wives and girlfriends—when the Daily Mail published a letter she had written to her father, Thomas Markle, in which she asked him to stop feeding the tabloids information. Meghan sent the letter under the palace’s advice, after it refused to help her press charges against them for the breach of privacy. So like any good American, she sued them herself. The litigation took years, a process that was so stressful it caused Meghan to miscarry her second pregnancy in 2020, an experience she later wrote about in The New York Times. In the end, Meghan won the case, assuring us that justice exists, at least for the famous and well-resourced.

Doubting the cruelty that Harry and Meghan suffered during their time together as members of the royal family—which only worsened once they left—is the wrong takeaway from this story. The couple was being hounded by the British press (even in a place as supposedly inaccessible as Vancouver Island), and the monarchy’s decision to strip them of their security after they stepped back from their royal duties was heartless, if not also deeply dangerous.

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But when they recount these emotional moments of terror and grief, it’s eclipsed by how much Harry and Meghan make a spectacle of their own story. In the midst of their own retelling, they can’t seem to help but make caricatures of themselves, steeped in a sort of narcissism only those who’ve been trained to exist in front of a lens (Harry because of his royalty, Meghan because of her profession) can embody.

At one point, Meghan recounts with awe that Beyoncé checked in on her the day after the couple’s damning 2021 Oprah interview, in which Meghan first details her suicidal ideation and the extent of the Windsor family’s racism. “I still can’t believe she knows who I am,” she says, as if she is not also one of the most famous Black women in the world. We’re now four episodes into this series and her the bright-eyed faux-naiveté is just too much. And that’s my biggest issue with this documentary endeavor: It becomes more and more difficult to tell what’s genuine and what’s not, and with each passing episode, I’ve increasingly lost interest in taking the time to parse the difference, oscillating between sympathy and revulsion at how they’ve chosen to tell their story.

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The moments the couple are most captivating are when they discuss the passions they pursued in earnest. Prior to officially marrying into the royal family, Meghan spent about nine months volunteering with the immigrant women of color who were displaced in the deadly 2017 Grenfell fire in London. Once she officially became a duchess, she helped them raise money by writing the foreword for a cookbook they published. On the flip side, the least effective moments of the series are when Harry and Meghan desperately try to kiss up to the royal family, with Harry telling stories about how King Charles helped out with their wedding and Meghan recounting tender moments with the late queen. It’s obvious where they scrambled to edit footage after her death in September.

Having gone on this grueling, six-part journey with them, I can’t help but feel quite sorry for the couple, even beyond the obvious ways they were iced out and betrayed by the royal family. As much as the media has hurt Harry and Meghan, now that they’re free of their royal duties, this documentary proves that it’s also become their only lifeline. It seems like the trauma of having to do damage control for so long has convinced them both that even the measliest straw must be spun into gold to satiate the hungry media, creating flattering (but painfully hollow) content for the type of image sterilization no longer required of them.

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In any case, I sincerely hope that the worst of their storm is over, and that Harry, Meghan, their kids, and their loved ones can all live out their boring lives unbothered. And I also sincerely hope that this is the last I hear of any of it.